Can Your Employees See the Details Critical for Delivering Innovative Service?

New arrivals to combat zones quickly learn that the difference between a veteran and a novice is far more than war stories.  They had an expression for it on the front line in Viet Nam: “grunt eyes.”  Grunts were the enlisted ranks of the infantry--low rank, little prestige, people whose job description started and ended with the simple requirement to, “Do what the 'old man' tells you to do.”

Those with “grunt eyes” were able to see things a new in-country recruit would completely miss.  And there was little correlation with rank.  Whether you were a captain or a private, you only acquired “grunt eyes” in the field, paying attention to every sight, sound, smell, impulse, clue, and condition that often could make the difference between life and death.  It was something learned, not something taught.

The people in any organization with “grunt eyes” are seasoned front-line employees who know the details critical to delivering innovative service.  They are the ones who can tell how Ms. Jones likes her coffee, why Smith’s Pyrotechnics needs precision on a delivery or what makes Mr. Jones return his order.  They know the details required to successfully be known for innovative service.  And, based upon our experience, a significant amount of the difference between satisfied and dissatisfied customers can be accounted for by an organization's ability to recognize and manage the details that really matter for customers.

People with grunt eyes take time to pick up trash, keep the website updated, polish counters, straighten displays, spruce up plants, make sure social media posts are correct as well as timely, and worry over the 101 details that together combine to make their customers' experiences with them memorable for all the right reasons.  Who in your organization has “grunt eyes?”  What could they teach you about what matters to customers?  How can you turn employees with “Grunt eyes” into mentors to those who currently lack the perspective and talent?

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© Chip Bell Group, 2022.  Courtesy of John R. Patterson (  Permission is given to download and distribute this article as long as it contains this copyright notice.

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